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The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Kings College, 30th May 2006

My eyes are shut and the music is rushing round me and I’m letting myself be thrown across the crests of its waves as ‘Swallowtail’ shatters the world. I want to live here forever. When BJM are hitting the songs right and you get scooped up into the flow of sound, then they can do no wrong, all the other crap gets jettisoned and its just you and this beautiful noise. Despite what you’ve heard, this happens more often than not, although tonight it’s a bit of a long haul, patience is required.

Apparently, the band have been playing some blinders on this tour, last night at Oxford being especially jaw-dropping by all accounts. Tonight though it’s time for the come-down, for fractious bitching and sniping and drunken tussling. Those of us who haven’t had the privilege of experiencing the blissful BJM harmony the rest of the country has enjoyed still come away feeling we’ve just had ourselves another killer gig. I’ve seen BJM four times over the last three years, on three of those occasions there were quite a few er, ‘moments’, Anton being Anton. It’s what you get with the BJM and if you can accept that, then you’re going to have a much better time of it. So, to the uptight types in the audience for whom it all gets too much I say; relax my friends, you’re in the hands of Dr Newcombe now, quit your griping and wait for the songs.

Joel is a blur, Frankie feels beurrgh.
After an initial bit of bantering and arsing, The BJM knock out a clutch of fine songs, peaking with the heart-squeezing swoop of ‘Hide and Seek’. Miss Amp wrote this great thing about putting your face into the music like a dog sticking its head out the window into the wind and that’s what I do with the songs tonight, letting the noise unfurl through my synapses until I hit the point where the switch in my head flicks and I can’t tell where the music begins and I end. And then this boneheaded security ape wades through the crowd to jab Bob Underexposed between the shoulder-blades – a polite reminder that photographers get to ply their trade for three songs only and this is what the fourth, fifth song? Except that isn’t really the rule, it’s just that one time the security apes did a gig where the three songs rule applied so now they apply it at every gig because they’re dumb like that. Anyway, this bloke and his dim-bulb rudery spoils the end of ‘Hide and Seek’ with it’s cute sprawl into The Smiths’ ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’.

Elementary.

Antons wears his deerstalker, swigs his vod, rants about rotten British Teeth, slags off Dave Grohl/NME/The Guardian, sneers at World Cup mania/ England’s cat-in-hell’s chance of winning, and coaxes uncommon noises from his guitar. Songs trickle in between rants, sounding magnificent, not least because of Ricky’s twelve-string guitar. Even when he’s idly stroking a hand down the strings between songs, it sounds like angels sighing. And yes, Joel is there doing his Joel thing, slugging from a bottle of red, making campy wise-cracks, woolly hat pulled down over that simian visage; the coolest, most blasé tambourine shaker in the whole world ever.
The sniping begins, Anton reckons his guitar’s not been tuned properly and keeps having digs at Travis their tech. It’s cringey and embarrassing like when someone’s mum says “I bet you don’t talk to your mother like that do you?” and you can’t say ‘Yes’ ‘cos then you’re being rude and you can’t say ‘No’ ‘cos then you’re dissing your friend.
There are audience ‘requests’ for meltdown epic ‘Feel It’, “the one journalists like” as Anton puts it. He deigns to play the song, but before leading the band through its one-chord wonderousness, he decides “artistry” should come before droning and kicks into the jangling wist-pop of ‘Telegram’, which ironically sounds a bit leaden. More bitching ends up with Frankie, who it has to be said is looking a bit dishevelled tonight, disappearing and Travis being forced to crank his way through ‘Feel It’ on the departed Mr Teardrop’s guitar. It still sounds great. At the end Frankie reappears, launching himself across the stage to rugby-tackle the hapless Travis. The pair of them wind up tumbling over the edge, narrowly missing my feet. I gaze down as they feebly wrestle on the floor until people yank them up to be hoisted back onstage. More songs…more arguments climaxing with Frankie, who generally just seems to take this shit, spazzing out, yelling ‘Fuck you!’ at Anton and shuffling off for good. Meanwhile some freaks in the audience have started hoying chips at Ricky. What’s going on? What are you doing? Stop enraging the band! And, where did you get chips from?! Tambourine bashing simian splendour
And then we get ‘Swallowtail’, Frankie’s guitar is taken up by keyboard player Rob (who’s been keeping well out of things so far), Joel smashing his way through about ten minutes of spiralling sound before tossing the tambourine high and taking his leave. Despite everything, the song sounds beautiful and I close my eyes, and this is where we came in.
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